MILK MONEY no *. Directed by Richard Benjamin. Written by John Mattson, Photography, David Watkin. Production design, Paul Sylbert. Music, Michael Convertino. Cast: Melanie Griffith, Ed Harris, et al. A Paramount release. 108 min. PG-13.
At the rate of at least one stupidity per scene, "Milk Money" rates as the worst, most feeble-minded flick I have seen in months; as one of the most immoral, distasteful and irritating; and as another proof of the imbecility of MPAA ratings: this insufferably contrived thing that calls itself "a romantic comedy" gets a PG-13 when far less objectionable movies get an R.
The milk money is the pooled savings ($103) of three 12-year old suburbanites who, feeling silly stirrings of sex, and (would you believe it?) having never seen a naked woman, want to use their funds in order to see one.
They bike over to the big city, get mugged, lose their bicycles and are rescued by a prostitute called simply V (Melanie Griffith) who obliges with the look-see and then drives them home. The last one out, Frank (Michael Patrick Carter), lives in harmony with his widowed dad Ed Harris.
When V's car conks out in front of Frank's home, the kid introduces her to Dad as (I'm not making this up) a roving math tutor. Though V looks and sounds like what she is, Dad buys the preposterous story.
In another moronic move, V thinks that Frank told his father that she is a prostitute. This triggers endless double-entendres, like Griffith telling Harris something like "If you don't use it you lose it" (meaning sex) and Dad, who thinks it means math, endorsing it, and, of course, being taken by Griffith as a man of unprecedented tolerance. And on and on, ad nauseam.
The cliche in movies about widowed parents with young progeny ("Corrina, Corrina" for example) has the kids yearn for a new parent. The trick "Milk Money" turns is that its set-up could be on a Geraldo-Jenny Jones- Montel Williams-Sally Jesse- etc. low-life sleaze program about "Children Who Want their Dads to Marry Hookers."
Developments include V and Dad falling in love; encounters with married, suburbanite clients of V; the killing of V's pimp; V being chased by the pimp's hoodlum boss who is after several hundred thousand dollars of stolen money; Dad finding out about V; V finding the money and buying wetlands dear to Dad's heart, a house in the suburbs and, of course, Dad's heart.
Also a tree-house; yearnings of respectability; Frank locking out the teacher and smuggling V in a classroom for a demonstration of female reproductive organs ; a father and son contest (disgusting) of who will eat his TV-dinner faster; a car chase and a crash; and more nauseating junk.
Throughout this phony flick and its unremittingly inane dialogue, the adults seem to have the mental age of sub-teens. Harris sports beatific smiles and idiot grins; Griffith, thinner than in other recent appearances, sports a busty Daisy Mae figure, sans polka dots, and an empty gaze. And save for the boy Frank, there is not a single appealing character.
The script (his first) is by a Chicago-born, Michigan-raised graduate of the UCLA Film School. The movie is directed by ex-actor Richard Benjamin. Starting with the fine "My Favorite Year," Benjamin made both duds (e.g. "My Stepmother is an Alien") and OK movies (e.g. "Racing with the Moon.") Before this latest fiasco he made the 1993 "Made in America," a silly interracial farce with Whoopi Goldberg, Ted Danson and a good supporting cast. Not memorable, but deserving better ratings than it got. "Milk Money" however is the pits.